Winnie Ndashe and other protesters outside the Tanzania High Commission in Pretoria demanding the release of her daughter, Sibongile Ndashe, and 12 others arrested in Tanzania. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/ANA
Human rights lawyer Sibongile Ndashe was arrested for “doing her job” and “fighting for the rights of other people” in Tanzania, her mother Winnie Ndashe said yesterday.

Ndashe travelled from Mpumalanga to Pretoria to join calls for the release of her daughter, who was arrested with 12 other people - two from South Africa - last Tuesday in Tanzania. 

Her mother joined organisations advocating for equal human rights, freedom of identity and freedom of association for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community for a protest outside the Tanzania High Commission in Pretoria. 

They were calling for the release of the group. Sibongile and her group were arrested for “promoting homosexuality” when Tanzanian authorities raided a legal meeting between members of the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa and Community Health Services and Advocacy at Peacock Hotel in Dar es Salaam.

Ndashe told the Pretoria News - sister paper of the Cape Times - that she worried about her child, although the family was able to communicate with her over the phone. 

“Sibongile has not done anything bad her entire life. She was arrested for doing her job, which is fighting for the rights of other people. 

"That is why we are here to see that my daughter and others are freed. She told me she was not being treated badly and the lawyer who was representing her said she had the things she needed. I am praying for her release,” the mother said.

There were allegations that the group had been preparing to challenge the government of Tanzania in court after it made a decision to ban drop-in centres that served people at risk of contracting HIV. 

Matilda Lasseko of the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa, where Sibongile is executive director, said the Tanzanian police were actually not operating within the law. 

She said the group was held for more than 24 hours before being charged. They were granted bail, but this was revoked soon after.

Spokesperson for Embrace Diversity Political Movement Mpho Buntse said: “We are strongly against what happened. We want the Tanzanian government to deal with this matter as soon as possible.”

Burundian human rights activist and Pride Community Links executive director Thomas Ndayiragije said Tanzanian authorities were using their power to cover up corruption and prevent justice. 

Protesters said they believed the South African lawyers were arrested because they were discussing possible litigation against the Tanzanian government which had closed HIV care centres.